Ocean Friendly Gardens, Water Quality
February 26 2016

Partners Helping To Create A New Ocean Friendly Garden Program

I first met Surfrider Sonoma Coast Chapter's Policy and Volunteer Coordinator, Cea Higgins, at a Surfrider California Chapter Conference and discussed how to launch a chapter Ocean Friendly Garden program. Realizing that the chapter didn't have the available resources but knew that this program would have great impact, we decided to see if a coalition of environmental organizations, of which the Surfrider Sonoma Chapter is a part, would collaborate.

The coalition is called the Sonoma County Water Coalition, comprised of 12 member organizations and 18 supporting ones. At one of their  meetings, Cea and I presented a slideshow on the Ocean Friendly Garden program, its impact and the standards (CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention) that can transform the traditional landscape marketplace. In an effort avoid competition between and consumer confusion caused by different organizational brands such as the local Russian River Friendly Program, the message would be called the watershed approach: rainwater as a resource, living soil, and climate appropriate plants. It would take a coordinated effort of non-profits, for-profits and government to implement the approach:

  • Promote the approach in a simple messaging campaign to build the consumer demand;
  • Set standards for retrofitting existing landscapes and buildling new ones; and
  • Train a workforce based on those standards.

The Coalition members were excited by the proposal and look forward to the next steps.

The following day I met with one on one with some of the Ocean Friendly Garden collaborators in greater detail. One group is Russian RiverKeeper, based in Healdsburg, CA and which is part of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, who tackles lots of issues through policy advocacy and litigation. Executive Director Don McEnhll and Executive Assistant Kate Wilson expressed a willingness to support a coordinated effort with Surfrider-Sonoma.

Right after the meeting with the Keepers, I headed to Sonoma to meet up with the education and hands-on action-oriented group, Daily Acts, to speak with Trethen Heckman (Executive Director), Gretchen Schubeck (Associate Director), and Brianna Schaefer (Programs Manager). They run an annual campaign from the months of March-May called the Community Resilience Challenge, to "save water, grow food, conserve energy, reduce waste and build community." They measure the impact, "e.g., gallons of water saved, square feet of lawn sheet mulched)."  Like their Cavanagh Center Demonstration Garden project (at left), they doing another one in May at the historic public library building and invited Surfrider-Sonoma Chapter to participate.

Brianna (at right) took me on a short tour of some great garden projects such as the Cavanagh site, Trethen's home (at right) and a school site. It was cool to be be reminded by Brianna that she was involved in a Surfrider San Francisco Ocean Friendly Garden called Plant Don' Pave initiative several years ago. In 2010, she helped in creating the La Playa Park project located in the street median near the North Judah Street car turnaround which included a demonstration garden highlighting Surfriderʼs “Plant Donʼt Pave” initiative, inviting residents to replace concrete with drought-tolerant and native plants to capture stormwater runoff.

It was also great to be reacquainted with former Los Angeles landscape professional, Sean Jennings, who led a weekend garden-building challenge in L.A. in 2010. Sean is now running Rootstock Landscapes with his wife, Mary. They offers hands-on workshops and are interested in collaborating with Sonoma Coast Surfrider. 

With all of these productive meetings, the Surfrider Sonoma Coast Chapter will have an Ocean Friendly Garden up and running in no time!